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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy the Rough with the smooth, 21 Mar. 2005
By 
Mr. T. J. D. Purser "the_man_who_died" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Rough Trade Shops - Counter Culture 04 (Audio CD)
One of the truest measures of a compilation is how many albums or artists it inspires you to explore after listening. If it does its job properly you should end up using it as a launch pad to a whole new world of musical joy while still regarding the original compilation as a collection of great songs in itself. If it fails, you end up realising why you never heard any of the songs before they were put on the compilation.
Rough Trade are compilation compilers par excellence. They release a couple of thematic/genre compilations a year plus their end of year round up. This years Counter Culture is the third of these 'best of the year' put together by people working at the Rough Trade record shops and comes over two cds. Like last year's, the two cds are divided into 'quiet' and 'loud' to try and give each one some sense of character but this is a largely inconsequential move as the individual songs have enough character by themselves. Also like last year's, the whole experience of the album is quiet up and down. Some songs are extremely immediate, some require work, and some are just total rubbish.
To the songs though. There are some total gems on this album, songs you are amazed managed to slip beneath the radar of mainstream-indie consciousness. From the quiet cd, the opener 'Believer' is a work of hushed majesty, 'Let's Get Lost' reminds you why Elliott Smith is such a huge loss for music and Sonic Youth's 'Dude Ranch Nurse' is enough to make you cry 'hey, they've still got it!'. More obscure numbers are Micah P. Hinson And The Gospel Of Progress' 'I Still Remember' and Magoo's 'Peace, Love and Blood' but overall 'best quite one' has to go to Cornershop and Bubbly Kaur's superb 'Topknot' a song of jittery funkiness and beautiful singing which should be enough to get anyone's ass on the floor.
The 'loud' cd is always a more tempestuous beast; a number of the tracks have a kind of wilful standoffishness but after a little work the diamonds soon begin to shine. The Knife's 'Kino' is immediate and upfront, light and zippy with a superb euphoric climax. Mordant Music's 'Shackleton' points to some point in the near-future where grime and IDM will become one. Liars' 'There's Always Room On The Broom' shows why They Were Wrong So We Burned is one of the most unfairly treated albums of the last couple of years.
The joy of these albums is the variety of songs; there isn't a genre left out or considered unworthy. After last year's compilation, I ended up buying between ten and twenty albums on the strength of what I heard and I wouldn't be surprised if the same happened again this year.
The only drawbacks of this compilation is the risk you run of being accused of being a 'hipster', as if everyone else's best of 2004 was not good enough for you. Obviously, this is for individuals to decide but if you can listen to this album and still think the only reason to buy it would be to 'look cool' then you're simply guilty the kind of ridiculous inverted snobbery so much music seems stricken by. If you love hearing new music, this is for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rich year indeed, 29 May 2005
By 
R. A. Langham "Rob Langham" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Rough Trade Shops - Counter Culture 04 (Audio CD)
I had thought that 2004 was a disappointing year for new music - how could one think otherwise when we are supposed to believe that the likes of Razorlight and the Dears are in any way innovative?
In desperation, I turned to this complilation to see if there were any hidden gems. Thankfully, my curiosity was rewarded.
I was familiar with some of the bands featured - newer operators such as Bloc Party and Sons and Daughters and old stalwarts like Sonic Youth and Coil - all of whom impress on this showing. However, there are many other superb tracks. The absolute highlight is the Go! Team tune - so good that I rushed out and bought their album. The slightly introspective first CD is packed full of ballads with an edge and the second CD reintroduces experimentation to modern music - not before time.
This is a brilliant chronicle of en excellent year for music.
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Rough Trade Shops - Counter Culture 04
Rough Trade Shops - Counter Culture 04 by Various Artists (Audio CD - 2005)
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